Author’s Bookshelf: Elves, Detectives, Battles, and Boxing

I actually spent a good bit of reading time in study this week; studying writing, publishing, etc… I did find time to read other things though.

After months of buddy reading with a dear friend of mine, we reached the end of Tolkien’s Return of the King. (We began with the first book months ago!) I can honestly say that I loved the entire series even more this time than after my first reading. Faramir and Frodo are my favorites, but I love many of the characters in The Lord of the Rings. The way Mr. Tolkien portrayed good vs. evil and the ultimate triumph thereof is honestly beautiful.

On the recommendation of a friend, I read my first Louis L’Amour book, Off the Mangrove Coast. I thought it an intriguing collection of short stories. Detectives, boxers, cowboys, and sailors, adventurers, actors, and an insurance man. The stories had quite a mix. Some stories I liked, others not so much. I wasn’t very fond of The Diamond of Jeru, but I rather enjoyed The Unexpected Corpse. I won’t give an order of all the stories and what I liked least to most, but it was a good mix.

I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve also worked on Starlight and Time by Dr. Russel Humphries. I expect to complete it soon.

What are you reading this week?

To the KING be all the glory!

Author’s Bookshelf: Myths and Mermaids

Reading is easily one of my favorite pastimes. It both relaxes and refreshes my brain. Ironically, it is always the first activity that I drop, when I have too many things swirling through my brain; ironic, considering, reading also helps me relax my thoughts enough to stop the swirling and organize what I must do.

All that to say 2020 reading commenced rather slow. Until last week, when I got my reading schedule going again.

First, I finished reading Shallows by Denver Evans. I enjoyed it as a new take on mermaids, though admittedly, I have read nothing about mermaids besides Hans Christian Anderson. I did quite like Emerson Kadwell and the story made me wish, again, to go on a boat someday.

Thanks to a night of very little sleep, I found the time to read C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces in little more than one day. That is a fascinating read; a retelling of a Greek myth, but in Mr. Lewis’ style. I didn’t particularly care for Orual, the main character and narrator, most of the time, but I don’t think that you’re supposed to. Honestly, I’m still trying to sort through the book in my head. Not the story. That was clear enough. It’s the whole point of the book that I’m trying to get to and understand. I’m still thinking about it and I finished it on Friday night – well, Saturday morning.

Currently, I’m still actively reading The Return of the King and getting my first taste of Louis L’Amour in Off the Mangrove Coast and one other book about writing. I’m technically in the midst of a few others, but I haven’t been active in them this week. One can only read so many books at once and pay attention!

What have you been reading this week?

To the KING be all the glory!

Reading Recap for 2019

It seems that authors everywhere are talking about their favorite books they read in 2019. Usually posting a top ten on their blog or Facebook page.

I have tried to follow suit. I really have. I have sat down and tried to pick ten books out of the 67 or more different volumes that I read in 2019, but I have failed. I really did read a lot of good books this year. (You can see the log of what I read in the picture above. It doesn’t include books I read twice – they’re only drawn in once.)

In January, I read Peter Pan for the first time. I loved the way J.M. Barrie told his story. Parts of the book are a little weird, and I honestly didn’t expect Peter to be so flighty in his memory, but I quite enjoyed the book. (Which is probably one reason I’m writing a story with Peter Pan as the theme now. More on that later, however.)

2019 marked the first time that I completed C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I had read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe more than once, but for various reasons I had never finished the series. I completed it in 2019 and could only say I was sorry not to have read it before. (Though there is something to be said for finishing Narnia while traveling to and staying in Britain!) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader had me skeptical, but in the end I liked it as much as the others. I fondly recall The Silver Chair. I don’t comment on all the theological points of The Last Battle, but that book, especially, left me in awe. Particularly the depiction of death and going to Heaven. It was so beautiful and like nothing I had ever read.

On the recommendation of a friend, I read Silas Marner by George Eliot this last year. The first page, I confess, had me skeptical. (It doesn’t take much for me to be skeptical about a book in the beginning. At least, it doesn’t usually stop me from continuing.) It seemed a little dry. I soon found myself proven wrong. I loved how the author portrayed Silas as such a simple man, but wholly human and likable. Not animal-like in any way, just because he had such a simple way about him. I loved watching him take in his little girl, learning to love and care for the child. It was so sweet. I bought a copy of my own a short while later.

In the summer, I read Brothers at Arms: Treasure and Treachery in the Amazon by John Horn. Lawrence and Chester quickly placed in my list of favorite characters. I actually read the entire Men of Grit series in the summer, and I enjoyed every one, but Brothers at Arms is my favorite. The Mountain Fortress: Escape to the Outback is probably my second favorite, though it is difficult to choose.

I can also count As You Like It as one of my favorites this year, but I can not with honesty say whether I loved the Shakespeare play for itself or whether the fact that I read it for my trip to Oxford, saw it as my first play, and attended the play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, no less, made it a favorite. I can not decide on an unbiased opinion in this case and I do not intend to continue trying at present.

War in the Wasteland. Douglas Bond has been a favorite author of mine since I was sixteen. With that knowledge, I had high hopes for this book, but it far exceeded my expectations. You can read my review here.

Suit and Suitability by Kelsey Bryant. I know that I actually wrote one of the books in this series. I also know that we published The Vintage Jane Austen Series two years ago. For various reasons that I will not bore my readers with, I only managed to give the entire series my full attention this year. I would venture to say that, lovely as our series is, Kelsey may have written the best story out of them all. I really loved the way that she retold Sense and Sensibility.

This seems to have been my year for reading series, which is odd since I generally avoid them. (Short version: I’m always afraid that the further the series goes, that the author will somehow ruin the story. I didn’t see that happen in my 2019 reading, however.) I discovered Chautona Havig’s Meddin’ Madeline series to be quite fun. So fun, in fact, that I am cheerfully anticipating the release of book four. I do enjoy a good mystery and the characters really are realistic, but relatable. I can’t pick a favorite here… I really can’t. I rather think of them as one long book. I’m not sure why.

Another series I enjoyed in 2019 is The Accidental Cases of Emily Abbott by Perry Kirkpatrick. Not sure I could pick a favorite book here either, but I do have a favorite character. Brent Peterson makes being a spy look like such an adventure. Again, I look forward to the next installment. This series was likely one of the most amusing of anything I read in 2019.

Although I have read them before, rereading most of The Lord of the Rings in tandem with a dear friend of mine (we’re still working on the end,) deserves mention, as I have highly enjoyed the reading. Also, I began by reading The Hobbit first, which I hadn’t done before. It’s been fascinating to notice just how often The Hobbit or its characters are referenced in the succeeding books.

I read The Weight of Glory toward the end of summer. I love how C.S. Lewis can make clear, things that have confused or befuddled me. I plan to read it again.

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and Not a Word by Chautona Havig both get honorable mention, as favorites of mine that I reread.

As this list is growing long beyond all sense of reason, I shall bring it to a close. I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t include among my very favorites, Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey books. I have not finished this series, but I plan to. Whose Body? Charmed me from the first chapter. Lord Peter has not replaced my favorite detective, (because who could replace Sherlock Holmes?) but he does hold second place, currently. His best friend, Detective Inspector Charles Parker, may also be my favorite police detective ever, actually. I look forward to finishing the series.

These are not in order, though they are somewhat in order of my reading. Somewhat. Some of my most favorite are up towards the top, but then… some of them are farther down. And then the list gets mixed up.

I enjoyed my 2019 reading year and I’m looking forward to 2020. (Thus far, I am enjoying Tolkien’s The Return of the King.) What were some of your favorite reads in 2019?

To the KING be all the glory!  

Christmas Carol Society is Live!

Did you see what went live this weekend? Christmas Carol Society is available in both Kindle and Paperback!

How did this book come about? Let’s travel back in time a bit to commence…

December 2013

That year, I spent most of December living with friends. One night, I sat on my bed in my little room, my laptop in front of me as I worked on the final rewrite of Journeys of Four. I hadn’t ever been away from home during Christmastime and while I worked, I analyzed what I missed about the traditions I had grown up with.

Toward the top of my list, I missed A Christmas Carol. I had neither book nor film with me. Mixing my thoughts with my work, I grew distracted, saw a white bunny and jumped down a rabbit hole. Which is to say, I stopped working and wrote down a new book idea that I titled Homeschooler’s Christmas Carol. Then, because I had a lot of work to do, I went back to work on Journeys of Four.

December 2018

Five years passed. Then, Sarah Holman asked if I wanted to write a novella for A Very Bookish Christmas. The idea sounded fun! I asked for A Christmas Carol and I got it.

It had been years since I even looked at my file, but the idea of spinning A Christmas Carol into a contemporary fiction story with no fantasy and a greater emphasis on the gospel had continued to intrigue me. How should it be done, however?

While December slipped by, January crept in. One afternoon, I made a hungry little person a grilled cheese and the character of Charlie Baker occurred to me. He wasn’t quite right – really, I pictured him about fourteen years younger – but I knew I had my starting point. I rushed across the room to write it down.

Possibly ten minutes later, I rushed across the room again, when Charlie grew into a man in my head, followed by the birth of Miss Dartmoor and the Christmas Carol Society. I could see them all so clearly, that I nearly forgot what else I had been doing. Only nearly.

However, by early 2019, if not before, I had begun struggling with my writing. While I still had moments of excitement regarding my stories, I struggled when I actually tried to write them. That didn’t stop me from trying, however, and I pushed on with my book, trying to grasp an elusive thread for this story that I knew just dangled beyond my reach.

Then, I went to Oxford, where the LORD allowed me to learn more than I could have expected. On my return, armed with lots of prayer, critiques on my first chapter, and a renewed vision, I began my book again on page 1. The LORD allowed first draft completion of my manuscript in six weeks.

I learned so much with Charlie. I’m still trying to absorb the lessons myself, as I am not fictional, and clearly, not as receptive as he is. I love this book and the characters. I thank the LORD for letting me write it.

I did have a single problem, however. Christmas Carol Society is not a novella. It’s a novel. Too long for the collection. The LORD provided there as well by letting me come up with and somehow find the time to write Gingerbread Treasures in a very short time. (Which, LORD willing, will be released with the other stories in the collection later this month!)

The end result is, that after six months of drafting the manuscript, typing it into my computer, letting it rest while I did other things, waiting on edits and readers, and finally doing the final edits and formatting – I get to present you with the completed novel in time for the celebratory season! I never have got over the awe of seeing the LORD allow a story that I wrote, reach the stage of publication!

I hope that my readers will enjoy Christmas Carol Society, will be blessed by the story within, and, ultimately, will be pointed toward the LORD in the reading.

To the KING be all the glory!